- FIFA World Cup qualification
FIFAWorld Cup qualification is the process a national football (soccer)team goes through to qualify for the "FIFA World Cup Finals", or, more commonly known as the " FIFA World Cup". FIFA World Cup is a global event, and qualification is used to reduce the large field of participants from about 200 to 32.
Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), and are organized by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones, based on the relative strength of the confederations' teams.
The hosts of the World Cup receive an automatic berth in the finals. Unlike many other sports, results of the previous World Cups or of the continental championships are not taken into account. Until 2002, the defending champions also received an automatic berth, but starting from the 2006 World Cup they also need to enter qualifying.
Over many years, the World Cup's qualification has evolved, from having no qualification at all in 1930, when the tournament was invitational and only 13 teams entered, to a two-year process in 2006 which started in 2003.
While the number of teams which qualified for the finals has increased steadily, from 16 between 1934 and 1978, to 24 between 1982 and 1994, and finally to 32 starting from 1998, the qualification format has been basically the same throughout the history of the World Cup. The teams have been grouped continentally, and they competed for a fixed number of berths, with one or two berths reserved for winners of the intercontinental play-offs.
Qualification spots by continent
The table below lists the numbers of spots allocated by FIFA for each continent in each tournament. Places in the intercontinental play-offs count as 0.5 spots. Numbers in bold represent the winners of the intercontinental play-offs. "+C" denotes an additional spot for defending champions. "+H" denotes an additional spot for hosts.
*1 In 1938, Austria withdrew after qualifying and were not replaced, so only 15 teams, 12 of them European, played in the finals.
*2 In 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew after qualifying and were not replaced, so only 13 teams, none of them Asian and 6 of them European, played in the finals.
*3 Initially in 1958, Africa and Asia together were given 1 spot, while Europe was given 9 spots. However, after Israel won the African and Asian zone without playing any matches due to withdrawals of other teams, a special play-off was arranged between them and a European team (Wales). So in effect, Africa and Asia together were given 0.5 spots, while Europe was given 9.5 spots.
*4 In 1962, Europe was given 8 automatic spots, plus 2 additional spots in the intercontinental play-offs, in effect giving them 9 spots. The two European teams played an African team and an Asian team respectively, and both European teams won. Therefore, 10 European teams played in the finals.
*5 In 1994, there were two rounds of intercontinental play-offs. First, an Oceanian team played a team from North and Central America and Caribbean, and the winner then played a South American team.
Qualification competition entrants over time
The number of teams entering the qualification process and the number of matches played have been steadily growing over time.
*1 Although South Africa are automatically qualified for 2010 as hosts, they will compete in the CAF qualifiers, becoming the first hosts to compete in World Cup qualifying since 1934. This is because the
Confederation of African Footballis using its 2010 World Cup qualifiers as the qualifying phase for the 2010 African Cup of Nations, a tournament for which South Africa must qualify separately.
*2 Because the
Oceania Football Confederationhas used the World Cup Qualifiers as a phase (or as the entire) Oceania Nations Cup, there is the possibility for non-FIFA countries to enter in matches that double as World Cup qualifiers. In the 2006 qualifiers, New Caledonia were included in the tournament although they were not FIFA members at the date of close of entries. They are, however, included in the 12 nations listed as they joined FIFA during the course of qualification, even though they had been technically eliminated from contention a few days earlier (a similar situation occurred in the entries for 2010, with Montenegro's entry accepted prior to their admission by FIFA). By contrast, Tuvalu have entered the 2007 South Pacific Games Football tournament, which double as qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. They are not included in the 11 OFC entrants, although their results will have an impact on qualification.
*3 "Teams played" is the total number of teams that played at least one qualifying match. Unless a European nation withdraws, this will be 199 for the 2010 qualification due to Papua New Guinea (failed to enter the South Pacific Games tournament in time and were then eliminated from the tournament), as well as Guam, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Central African Republic, Bhutan and Eritrea who all withdrew after initial preliminary draws but prior to playing any matches.
Currently, 32 places are available in the final tournament. One of them is reserved for the host nation, but if two or more nations host the competition jointly, each is awarded a place. The 2006 Finals were the first in which an automatic entry was not guaranteed to the previous champion; 2002 winner Brazil qualified for 2006 at the top of their group.
FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones. For the 2010 World Cup, the following numbers will be used [ [http://www.fifa.com/en/worldcup/index/0,3360,127545,00.html?comp=WF&year=2010&articleid=127545 Clear declaration to defend the autonomy of sport] , FIFA Official site. Retrieved on
December 20, 2006] :
UEFA(Europe) - 13 berths
* CAF (Africa) - 5 berths, plus the host
* AFC (Asia) and OFC (Oceania) - 4 berths for AFC countries, with the fifth going to the winners of an AFC-OFC playoff
CONMEBOL(South America) - 4 berths
CONCACAF(North and Central America and Caribbean) - 3 berths
* 1 berth for the winners of CONMEBOL-CONCACAF playoff
These numbers vary slightly between tournaments (see above).
Qualification in all zones ends at approximately the same time, in September–November of the year preceding the finals.
The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations and are outlined below.
The CAF qualification process will begin with a preliminary round to narrow the field to 48 teams, and then groups will be drawn in Durban in November 2007.
The qualifying competition for the 2010 World Cup will be combined with the qualification process for the
2010 African Cup of Nations. Since South Africa is hosting the World Cup, it has automatically qualified, but will play in the qualifiers themselves (becoming the first hosts to do so since 1934 qualifying) to facilitate the African Cup of Nations version of the qualifiers.
The first group stage will see 12 groups of 4, with the group winners and 8 best runners-up advancing to the second group stage. That will consist of 5 groups of 4 - with group winners advancing to the World Cup finals and top three nations in each group advancing to the
2010 African Cup of Nations.
Qualifying has been substantially altered from the 2006 method, with two knock-out preliminary rounds to reduce the 43 entrants to 20, a first group stage with the top-two sides from 5 groups of 4 advancing to a final group stage. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 5 advance to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off for the right to play an Oceania side for a final World Cup spot.
The European qualification games will start in August 2008. The 53 national teams will be divided into eight groups of six teams, and one group of five. The nine group winners will qualify directly and the best eight runners-up will play home and away play-off matches for the remaining four places. [ [http://www.uefa.com/newsfiles/554821.pdf UEFA Executive Committee decisions: Format for European qualifying for FIFA World Cup 2010 decided] , UEFA. Retrieved on
June 24, 2007]
North and Central America and Caribbean
The proposed CONCACAF qualification process [cite press release
title = CONCACAF Exco meets in Netherlands Antilles
url = http://www.concacaf.com/view_article.asp?id=3757
accessdate = 2007-03-29] is identical to that for
2006 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF). It would consist of two preliminary rounds to reduce the 35 entrants to 24 and then 12 teams, followed by 3 semifinal groups of 4 (likely to occur in the second half of 2008), with the top two in each group advancing to a final 6-team group (held during 2009).
The top three teams would qualify for the
2010 FIFA World Cupwhile the fourth placed side would enter a play-off with the fifth placed CONMEBOL nation.
Qualification in Oceania is composed of two rounds. The first round will take place at the
2007 South Pacific Games, where the top 3 teams will advance to a final round group stage with New Zealand, although the [http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/regulations/index.html latest information from FIFA] may suggest otherwise. The winning team will then playoff against the 5th Asian side for a spot in the finals. This is a major change from the initial FIFA information on Oceania's qualification [ [http://www.oceaniafootball.com/index.cgi?det=1&intArticleID=2031&sID=12 OFC 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP ROUTE VIA ASIA] , Oceania Football Confederation Official site. Retrieved on December 20, 2006] which suggested inclusion in the second Asian group stage.
The simplest system is used by CONMEBOL. Ten participating teams play each other twice in a single group.
The qualification process takes about 25 months. The top 4 teams advance to the World Cup finals while the 5th place team goes into a playoff with the fourth placed CONCACAF nation.
Intercontinental play-offs are played as two home-and-away matches. The team that scores a greater aggregate number of goals qualifies.
Away goals ruleapplies. If these rules fail to determine the winner, extra timeand penalty shootouts are used.
Group tournaments rules
In all group tournaments, three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. FIFA has set the order of the tie-breakers for teams that finish level on points:
#goal difference in all group matches
#greater number of goals scored in all group matches Where teams are still not able to be separated, the following tie-breakers are used:
#greater number of points obtained in matches between the tied teams
#goal difference in matches between the tied teams
#greater number of goals scored in matches between the tied teams Where teams are still equal, then a play-off on neutral ground, with extra time and penalties if necessary will be played if FIFA deems such a play-off able to be fitted within the coordinated international match calendar. If this is not deemed feasible, then the result will be determined by the drawing of lot.
Note that this order of tie-breaker application differs from that used in the qualification for the 2006 World Cup (although it was - where applicable - used in the 2006 finals themselves). If these rules had applied in 2006, then Nigeria would have qualified rather than Angola.
National team appearances in the FIFA World Cup
* [http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/mcwc/ip-301%5f11a%5ffwc-prelstats%5f8828.pdf FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition Statistics (from FIFA.com)]
* [http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/mcwc/fwc%5fprel%5fhistory%5fby%5fyear%5f25982.pdf FIFA World Cup Preliminary History (from FIFA.com)]
* [http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/tournament/competition/fifa%5fwc%5fsouth%5fafrica%5f2010%5fregulations%5fen%5f14123.pdf FIFA World Cup 2010 Regulations]
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